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NFL Green Bay PackersSan Francisco 49ers

Green Bay Packers OLB Clay Matthews is Not a Dirty Player

Clay Matthews

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has continued to boil the pot between his team and the Green Bay Packers on Monday, as the coach said Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews “tries too hard to be a tough guy”.

During the second quarter of the 49ers’ 34-28 win over the Packers, Matthews committed a personal foul on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, tackling the third-year player out of bounds. A scuffle broke out between both teams, and Matthews was later seen on camera pulling 49ers left tackle Joe Staley’s facemask during the fracas.

“He’ll have some repairing to do to his image after the slap,” Harbaugh said Monday to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. “If you’re going to go to the face, come with some knuckles, not an open slap”.

Leading up to Sunday’s NFC showdown at Candlestick Park, Matthews said Green Bay’s defense would target Kaepernick throughout the game. Kaepernick and the 49ers offense rushed for 66 yards on 28 carries — eight months after Kaepernick embarrassed Green Bay’s defense in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs with 181 rushing yards.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has publicly defended his All-Pro talent. “Clay Matthews is not a dirty player by any means … I’ll address Harbaugh’s comments in the team meeting, and we’ll stay above it”.

Since entering the league in 2009, Matthews has been flagged for 13 penalties (3.1 penalties per season). Before Sunday, Matthews has been flagged for offsides (eight penalties), roughing the passer (three), facemask (one) and holding (one). Matthews had never been flagged for unnecessary roughness.

The Packers were the most penalized team in 2009, and by 2011, they were one of the NFL’s least penalized. In 2011, the Packers averaged 4.65 penalties per game (lowest average in NFL), and accumulated roughly 35.82 penalty yards per game (second least).

By comparison, in 2011 (Harbaugh’s first season as San Francisco head coach), the 49ers averaged 6.78 penalties per game (ninth-highest average) and averaged 60.94 penalty yards per game (seventh-most).

Matthews had four penalties in 2011, while the 49ers had 15 players who were flagged for at least four penalties in the same season. Former 49ers safety Dashon Goldson was flagged for three unnecesarry roughness penalties alone in 2011. Doesn’t that sound “dirty”?

In 2012, Matthews was flagged for three penalties—19th on the Packers team. 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith and offensive tackle Anthony Davis were both flagged for two unnecessary roughness penalties, and Goldson was flagged for four unnecessary roughness penalties.

It is time for Harbaugh to be mum about Matthews’ situation, because the 49ers have had more “dirty” superstar players since his arrival from Stanford before the 2011 season, and also because Matthews is one of the NFL’s least penalized players during his era.

In the season-opener at Candlestick, the 49ers team out-penalized the Packers, 11-5. If Harbaugh were to take a look at the hard evidence, the 49ers clearly have much “dirtier” players than Matthews.

Sean Tehan is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @SeanTehan, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google